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Knowledge Sharing

Shannon Wetzel

This week I overheard a snippet of my son’s remote learning 4th grade class. One of the students was having an issue getting her audio to work and the teacher was temporarily stumped. “Does anyone have some ideas for [Jane] that could help her?” the teacher asked the class while she was trouble-shooting on her end. Immediately, a classmate piped up with a solution (which worked). 

I thought of this simple exchange many times while reviewing this issue. What if Jane never asked for help, or her teacher couldn’t figure it out and didn’t want her students to know she didn’t have the answer? What if her classmates didn’t care that she couldn’t hear, figuring it doesn’t affect them?
Thankfully, my son’s class addressed the issue and solved it with barely a bat of the eye. The metalcasting industry, historically, has done the same.

In celebration of the American Foundry Society’s 125th anniversary next year, Modern Casting has been running a short article each issue reflecting on the association’s impact on the metalcasting industry. In the AFS History piece in this issue on page 41, we explore how sharing obstacles and knowledge in the early years of the society helped advance the industry at a time when the U.S. had a great need for more and more quality castings. One of the first AFS presidents, W.H. McFadden, acknowledged this unique strength in his remarks in 1907: 

“We have but to think of one of the many lines in which the foundry [industry] has advanced, then go back in the proceedings of our association and find that it began with a question or suggestion of some member at one of our meetings; it was later the subject of a paper...and finally given to the foundry industry in our Journal.”

This is one of the driving forces and purposes of a professional association, and AFS has continued its work to advance the industry through near constant peer-to-peer discussion, research and publication. 

A prime example is presented on page 30. The AFS Green Sand Division makes a point to visit several foundries throughout the year and report back on trends members are noticing. Recently, the division saw that some foundries were not putting as much new sand into their systems, and some plants were not at all. This led to questions of why this was happening and what impacts it was making. During the Sand Casting and Additive Manufacturing Conference last month, Travis Hepfner from AFS Corporate Member Cadillac Casting explained why it stopped adding new sand and how it affected the plant. Now that case study is published for other metalcasters to read and consider.

Technology does not stagnate; curiosity and market demand force industry to adapt. We can move ahead faster when concepts and information are disseminated widely for others to incorporate and expand in their businesses. How foundries operate today is different from foundries 125 years ago and will be different than foundries in the future.  

The Saugus Pot, which is a cast piece that represents the early colonial American foundry industry, would not be cast the same way today. You can read more about the significance of the Saugus Pot to the American foundry industry and how it was likely produced on page 24. What I found so interesting about the origins of  the American foundry industry was what happened when the Saugus Ironworks closed in the late 1600s. From the article: 

“The unemployed ironworkers spread out across New England plying their trade in new locations, helping to spawn more metalworking plants across the colonies and laying the foundation for the foundry industry in America.”

That’s some serious knowledge-sharing! 

As our foundry industry forefathers can attest, opportunity presents itself in many different ways, often during challenging times. If we continue to collaborate, we can expect to look back on 2020 as the genesis for something good.